THERE were plenty of familiar faces on show as the cast of this year’s Stevenage pantomime were unveiled yesterday (Tuesday).

This year’s Gordon Craig Theatre panto comes in the form of Beauty and the Beast, with three of the line-up all returning to the stage in Lytton Way.

Alongside Bernie Nolan, who admitted she had “never been to Stevenage”, will be theatre favourite Paul Laidlaw - 25 years after his first Gordon Craig appearance - as Dame Derriere and Chris Clarkson as Potty Pierre, following the pair’s appearance in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves last year.

They will be joined by Rachel Jerram, who swaps her casting as Cinderella at the theatre in 2007 for the role of Belle this time around, and Fairy Formidable Leanne Jones, following her West End run of Hairspray.

All five were unveiled to the public at the launch, with the cast list to be completed by Simon Pontin as Prince Gallant and Beast and Graham James as Belle’s father Jean Jacques.

The panto, produced by Jordan Productions for the second year running, aims to pay tribute to the original tale created in France in the 1700s while incorporating traditional panto elements.

Playing Malevolent, Bernie Nolan, who shot to fame as part of family pop group The Nolans, heads the cast with credits including a theatre tour of Blood Brothers, and TV soaps Brookside and The Bill.

Speaking to The Comet, the 51-year-old, who took a break from the industry after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year before later getting the all-clear, said: “This is my first job back since Calendar Girls (in April) and it’s good to be back doing panto. I think panto is initially for the children but it’s also for adults to become children.”

About playing the evil Malevolent, she said: “If you do not get boos as the evil character you’re not doing your job properly. I love the boos, the more the better!”

Bernie, who when asked what role she still longs to play cited the Sunshine Boulevard lead, said of her future plans: “I’d like to do a real meaty drama like Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect - I nearly died last year so you never know what’s around the corner.”

Beauty and the Beast runs from Saturday, November 26, until Sunday, January 22.

Tickets are available on 01438 894802 or